Dear editor: On January 12, the US Embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean issued a statement in which it called on the government of St Lucia to act with regard to the alleged extra-judicial killings carried out by members of the Royal St Lucia Police Force in the period 2010 – 2011.
It also demanded action on the findings of the Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) investigation into these killings which were issued in March 2015. The US embassy declared that it was urging the government of St Lucia to uphold the rule of law and further stated that the measures taken so far by both the St Lucian government and police force were insufficient to demonstrate St Lucia’s “commitment to the rule of law”.
Two days later, an EU delegation led by Mikael Barford, the EU ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean Countries, and including the British High commissioner based in Barbados and the French ambassador based in St Lucia met with St Lucia’s Prime Minister, Kenny Anthony, to further address this issue. Speaking to a press conference following this meeting, Barford declared that the St. Lucian government has to take action on the IMPACS report in order to demonstrate that it upholds the principle of the rule of law.
He demanded that the vacant positions of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and their deputy be quickly filled and that the government make available resources for these to carry out their work. He added that the EU delegation had plans to meet with the opposition to discuss this matter and stated that failure of the St. Lucia government to act in the ways stipulated by the EU would have a negative effect on St. Lucia’s tourism industry which is the mainstay of the country’s economy.
The US embassy statement and the EU delegation’s meeting with Kenny Anthony represent a gross interference by these big powers into St Lucia’s internal affairs. It is of course also rather ironic that those who are today lecturing St Lucia on upholding the ‘rule of law’ and defending human rights have their own sordid history of extra-judicial killings, torture and gross human rights violations.
From the destruction of Iraq and Libya, through to the assassination of numerous individuals both with drones and other means and their well-publicised torture chambers in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Camp Bastion and elsewhere, the US, British, French and other EU governments have disqualified themselves from lecturing anyone, including St Lucians, on upholding the rule of law and defending human rights.
It is rather ironic that while the US government is demanding that St Lucia demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law by prosecuting those police officers accused of extra judicial killings, in the US itself police officers are routinely killing black people and walking free without any sign of a prosecution. Not surprisingly, St Lucia or other Caribbean governments have not called on the US government to ‘demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law’.
The colonialist arrogance of both the US and EU and their gross interference in our region’s affairs highlights for the people of the Caribbean the urgent need to change our political and social reality so that our formal independence becomes something real. There is no justification for the extra judicial killing of citizens by the law enforcement agencies but this problem has to be addressed at its roots.
The reality is that the modern Caribbean, established on the basis of genocide, slavery and colonialism, has never been geared to meeting the needs of the Caribbean people. In fact, it is precisely the old and new colonial powers of Europe and north America which have done immense damage to our region, by plundering our human and natural resources. The extent of this damage can be seen that there has always been a steady stream of Caribbean emigration from what are some of the most beautiful islands on the planet.
Today the situation is being worsened by the blind application of the neo-liberal economic dogmas, which is being demanded by the same US and EU and the organisations they control like the World Bank and IMF. What were already distorted economies based on providing external powers with agricultural produce like sugar and bananas have now been herded into being tourist destinations.
Despite the announcement of record tourist arrivals, there is no sign of economic well-being for the mass of Caribbean people. For example, youth unemployment in St Lucia stands at nearly 50% and these conditions breed economic desperation and open the door to young people becoming trapped in criminal activity. Added to this is the economic desperation even of the Caribbean governments which find themselves without the necessary economic resources to carry out their basic functions on behalf of society. Today, Caribbean governments have become so desperate that they have begun selling citizenship to the highest bidder.
The inherited colonial structures allied with the government’s lack of resources leads to dysfunction of basic services such as justice. In many Caribbean countries, including St. Lucia, the old colonial judicial system has proved itself unfit for purpose. Cases drag on for years, criminals are not brought to account for their crimes and citizens are denied access to justice. These are the conditions which give rise to the police killings of citizens.
To address these problems, St. Lucians, like other Caribbean people, have to start an open discussion to explore how we remake our societies so that they serve our people’s needs; where our wealth is used for the betterment of all in our societies, every public servant is held accountable and those who commit crimes are held to account. This is a discussion which has nothing to do with the US and the EU.